Tribune News Service
Young immigrants currently protected from deportation will be quickly removed from the country by President Donald Trump’s plan to boost deportations, even if the new president doesn’t target them directly, a former senior immigration official in the Obama administration said.
Democratic leaders and advocates in the immigration community are bracing for Trump to eliminate several of Obama’s executive actions on immigration, including the deferred action program, known as DACA, that protects an estimated 750,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Trump was expected to act Monday.
Trump is not expected to immediately launch raids targeting the students, but fears among so-called Dreamers could grow as Trump executes plans to deport more than 2 million immigrants with any kind of criminal records. In the process he’s inevitably going to sweep up many DACA students who will be unlikely to be able to protect themselves.
Leon Fresco, who headed the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Immigration, said that even if Trump doesn’t terminate the program or promises not to directly pursue the young immigrants - as he has implied - more than 1,000 are likely to be targeted in deportation raids, including those with orders of removal and minor criminal records.
“DACA kids will in the very near future, in a matter of weeks, be apprehended as part of these sweeps of unexecuted orders of removal,” said Fresco, a former deputy assistant attorney general for the department’s civil division.
Because the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is a form of prosecutorial discretion, it’s not a real status and can be revoked at any time.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security told DACA recipients that their personal information would not be used for enforcement purposes, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be swept up in other enforcement actions, Fresco said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement already has a list of thousands of people and families with orders of removal that have not been executed. Many of those are DACA recipients who missed court dates and were ordered removed. Others may have parents who applied for asylum and lost their cases.
The Obama administration did not keep an exact figure of DACA recipients who had orders of removal, Fresco said, but it’s understood that more than 1,000 DACA recipients fall in the category.
Trump campaigned hard against illegal immigration, promising to build a wall on the Mexican borter, increase deportations and eliminate the youth program.
He has since said he wants to “work something out” for the Dreamers, but is still expected to cancel the program to send a message to supporters who feel Obama wrongly granted amnesty to hundreds of thousands of immigrants here illegally.
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The young immigrants are already protesting at many colleges and demanding legal aid in case Trump takes action. Fresco, who now represents universities, sees a potential nightmare scenario for a school if one or several of its students are swept up in a raid. It would immediately create fear throughout the foreign student body who won’t know why one of their classmates was apprehended.
“They will think its part of an effort to target DACA students and that is certain to create immediate spread of fear throughout DACA students going back into hiding and not going to school,” Fresco said.
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Democratic leaders say they’re ready to fight any effort to overturn Obama’s policies, take students work permits or increase deportations against hard working immigrants.
“We will not build a stupid wall,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said Saturday. “We will not tear millions of families apart. Not on our watch.”
Not only Democrats want to protect the DACA students. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has joined Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, in legislation that would provide DACA recipients three years of deportation protection and work permits. Graham and Durbin were members of the bipartisan group of senators who wrote immigration legislation that included a citizenship opportunity for millions of people in the United States illegally.
Graham called the DACA program unconstitutional and said Trump would be right to repeal it, but added that his proposed legislation is needed to give Congress time to seek a permanent solution.
“I do not believe we should pull the rug out and push these young men and women - who came out of the shadows and registered with the federal government - back into the darkness,” Graham said in a statement.
Congressional staffers expect Trump to either invalidate the deferred action program or allow existing work permits to expire as Republican leaders such as Newt Gingrich have suggested.
)2017 McClatchy Washington Bureau
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